My daily portion today was Matt 26:57-75. I usually read a chapter a day, but sometimes when the chapter is too long, I read half of it for a day. So I was completing Matt 26. I read about the many false witnesses against Jesus; the high priest putting Jesus under oath (which means Jesus had to answer the high priest according to the Law, and acknowledge that He is the Christ, the Son of God; followed by the powerful words in verse 64). How completely blinded they were! If Jesus were just a man, he would have spoken blasphemy. But He was not only a Man; He was God in the flesh; He was Son of God, v 63, and Son of Man, v 64. The dual nature of Jesus is not understood by many Muslims today; they being blinded by Satanic deception. But there are also many Christians who are not familiar with this important doctrine, confirmed by the Council of Chalcedon in AD 451.
But what I want to focus on is regarding the denials of Peter, Matt 26:69-75. Read also Mark 4:66-72; Luke 22:55-62 and John 18:17-18 & 25-27. It is significant that Peter’s threefold denial is narrated in all four gospels. That means it is worthy of deep meditation.
We usually declare that Peter denied the Lord Jesus thrice, and leave it at that. Or we say that Peter’s downfall happened in stages – ‘seven steps’ to his downfall, as in some popular sermons. But surely we need to go deeper than that. How did Peter deny the Lord? What were his utterances? In Matthew there is first a flat denial, v 70. “I don’t know what you’re saying!” And then he says, “I don’t know the Man!” v 72; which he repeats again, cursing and swearing, “I don’t know the Man!” (The cursing and swearing is not against God; he is making a strong oath which if untrue will bring a curse upon himself!)
We say, “O Peter, O Peter! How could you do that?” But we are ignorant of the deceitfulness of our own heart! Let us direct Peter’s words against ourselves. Are we, by our life and conduct, declaring that we don’t know Jesus? Are we denying Him both by words and works? Titus 1:16 says: “They profess to know God; but in works they deny Him, being abominable, and disobedient, and disqualified for every good work.” Strong language that!
When did we last speak up for Jesus? Are we truly His witnesses, like the early Christians in Acts of the Apostles who boldly declared, Jesus is Lord! Do others in this world know that you are a follower of Jesus? Or, are you hiding your light under a bushel? What is your Christian witness? Where is ‘the word of your testimony’, testifying that you truly ‘know’ Jesus? Are you indwelt by Him as a born-again Christian? Peter said twice, I do not know the Man! Do you ‘know’ Him? Do you know Jesus as God? We have to search our hearts.
Look at Mark’s Gospel. Here Peter is a little more elaborate. He says to the servant girl: ‘I neither know nor understand what you are saying.’ Mk 14.68. The girl twice says that he was one of those who were with Jesus of Nazareth, i.e. one of His followers or disciples. Can you say that you are a follower of Jesus? Do you truly follow Him? Do you truly serve Him? Read John 12.26. The Greeks wanted to see Jesus, but Jesus goes further than ‘seeing’; He says, in effect, ‘You will ‘know’ Me if you follow Me, serve Me and surrender your life wholly for Me.’ (I believe that John 12.24-25 speaks of our being a living sacrifice for our Lord Jesus.) Inward knowledge is more important than outward seeing.
Let’s turn to Luke’s Gospel. Here again, Peter denies that he was with Jesus, saying, “Woman, I do not know Him,” Lk 22.57. Again he denies that he is one of the followers of Jesus, Lk 22.58. And when he is exposed as a Galilean (the majority of Jesus’ followers were from Galilee, where Jesus did most of His ministry), he flatly denies it.
Finally, John’s Gospel chapter 18. John is very clear. The servant girl asks Peter: “You are not also one of this Man’s disciples, are you?” He denies it, v 17. Again the same question from others, and he denies it, v 25. Finally he is almost caught by a relative of Malchus, servant of the high priest, whose ear Peter had cut off. “Did I not see you in the garden with Him?” In fear and panic, Peter denied it with oaths and curses.
The question, or challenge, for us is: Are we ready to stand the test? (Remember, Peter was tested regarding his vow that he would not deny Jesus. Matt 26:33, 35.) Will you stand up for Jesus? Or will you back down, cave in? We are all going to be tested in the fire. May the Lord make us His bold witnesses, ready to give ‘the word of our testimony’ in this wicked Godless world; let us declare that we are the followers of the Lamb; let us be His bright shining witnesses in this dark world. We know Him, we follow Him, we serve Him…and we ‘do not love our lives to the death’, Rev 12.11. May the Lord strengthen our hearts and make us bold witnesses and brave disciples, living by faith and fearing none.
I believe the story of Peter is not just about human weakness or the deceitfulness of the human heart. We all are like Peter; it is difficult for us to stand in the hour of testing and trial. But, remember, the Lord is praying for us even now in heaven; He is our heavenly High Priest and Intercessor. At times our faith may fail, but He is ever faithful, 2 Tim 2:13. He will carry us through; He will restore us, revive us and use us mightily (as He used the same Peter mightily in the days of the early church, Acts 5:15).
Let us love the Lord Jesus with all our heart and serve Him joyfully as we get to know Him more intimately as we follow Him, walking in His footsteps daily, in our earthly lives.
In the end a true witness is a martyr for Christ. And Simon Peter, who denied Jesus so terribly in the passages referenced above, ended his life as a martyr for his Lord. Does it not speak of the immense grace and mercy of our loving and compassionate Saviour and Lord? We may fall terribly, but underneath are His everlasting arms. “I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail; and when you have repented and been restored, strengthen and establish your brethren.” Luke 22.32